Preview: Ireland v Samoa

Date published: November 12 2010

Not the game of the week by a long shot but Ireland know they have a lot to prove against Samoa on the back of defeat to South Africa.

Not the biggest game of the weekend by a long shot but Ireland know they have a lot to prove against Samoa on the back of defeat to South Africa.

Let us look back a moment to pre-game of last weekend and the ingredients going into their opening November Test against the world champions. The visitors were injury-ravaged, it was the grand opening for Ireland at their new home, Brian O'Driscoll had recovered from injury; everything seemed to be pointing towards the hosts claiming victory against the Springboks.

But this isn't the well-oiled machine that many expected to roll out and those 80 minutes proved that. If Ronan O'Gara had not created two late tries then the scoreboard would have made for much worse viewing for those who were in the stadium.

So are the Irish heading towards another poor World Cup performance, with Italy, Russia and USA their Georgia and Namibia of 2007? Many would hope not and one thing that is good to see is that, unlike Eddie O'Sullivan, Declan Kidney has proved he is not afraid to make changes. Out from the Springbok selection goes Rory Best, Gordon D'Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan, David Wallace, Mick O'Driscoll and Cian Healy. Tony Buckley has been confirmed injured but it was highly likely that he would have been another name axed after an out-of-sorts performance.

Whether these changes are in preparation ahead of facing New Zealand or not, one thing is for certain and that is the Irish did not help their cause last weekend. The line-out was one glaring problem but the height of Devin Toner may make a difference against a side that is not renowned for its set-piece. Keeping the focus on the pack and it is a big day for the two Seans, O'Brien and Cronin, who could cement a place with a good 80 minutes.

Samoa meanwhile go into the fixture on the back of a 26-22 defeat to Connacht at the Sportsground. Without taking anything away from the men from Galway's historic win, we feel it needs mentioning that Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua's side was very second-string.

This weekend's line-up sees fifteen changes in all to the run-on selection as Mahonri Schwalger leads a line-up that is littered with game-breakers like Seilala Mapusua.

So do not write this one off as a foregone conclusion, as rugby has seen in the past that banana-skin fixtures such as this do not go well the men from the Emerald Isle.

Ones to watch:

For Ireland: Many were calling for Sean O'Brien to start against South Africa ago but boss Declan Kidney went for the experience of David Wallace. This time around though it is the turn of the Leinsterman to don the seven jersey and if he continues his early-season form then big things are expected in the future. Also keep an eye on lock Devin Toner, who has promised to improve the line-out problems of last Saturday.

For Samoa: It cannot be downplayed just how important Seilala Mapusua is to both London Irish and Samoa. The back, who can play at either inside or outside centre, commands respect from those playing for and against him and will be a threat to Ireland at Aviva Stadium. Unquestionable power and rugby intelligence, his combination with George Pisi will be key to establishing an upper hand against their opponents.

Head-to-head: We go to wing for this one where Tommy Bowe and Alesana Tuilagi meet. They have collided before in club/region colours in the Heineken and LV= Cup competition with honours pretty much even. Their contrasting styles always makes for interesting viewing so keep a close eye on this one as both go into the fixture in decent form. The big question is though, will Samoa give their man enough room to motor?

Previous results:

2003: Ireland won 40-14 at Apia Park, Apia
2001: Ireland won 35-8 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin
1996: Samoa won 40-25 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin
1998: Ireland won 49-22 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin

Prediction: Ireland should come through this by 15 points!

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Denis Leamy, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Stephen Ferris, 20 Isaac Boss, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Keith Earls.

Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 David Lemi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Kahn Fotualii, 8 George Stowers, 7 Manaia Salavea, 6 Ofisa Trevarinus, 5 Kane Thompsen, 4 Filipo Lavea Levi, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (capt), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements:16 Tii Paulo, 17 Simon Lemalu, 18 Iosefa Tekori, 19 Afa Aiono, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Gavin Williams, 22 Jamie Helleur.

Date: Saturday, November 13
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), Neil Paterson
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)

By Adam Kyriacou